‘T’aint What Ya Do (It’s The Way That Ya Do It)

I don’t read a lot of ‘how to write’ books.  In fact, if you count the ten or so that I began and threw to the couch in disgust, the amount read still probably wouldn’t amount to one book.*

Mostly I just don’t like being told what to do.  But there’s also a part of me sceptical enough to believe that there isn’t one, general, shrink-wrapped way to write.  And then there’s that whole problem of: “But I don’t do it like that!” that occurs every time I delve into a ‘how to write’ book.  Apparantly one should always have an outline.  One should plot well in advance, with a detailed plan that cites every skerrick of the ‘who, why, what, when, and where’.  And how.  If one does not, one is a pantser**

The fact is, I quite often sit down to write with only one character in mind.  Sometimes I have an idea of a plot, but more often it grows and twists as I write.  I’m more likely to start with a character or a relationship than I am to start with a plotline or a story.  Yeah, it means I have a lot of work to do in the editing and re-writing, but that’s what works for me.  I love watching my plot grow and complicate.  I love that fact that seemingly random bits and pieces come together to form a cohesive whole, driving the plot on in my mind.  I don’t even mind going back to foreshadow things that need foreshadowing.

So now I’m curious.  How do you write?  What works for you?  Are you a pantser***?  Are you an outliner****?  Do your characters drive the plot, or does your plot drive the characters?  Are you perhaps a lover of *gasp* purple prose?

Let me know.  Oh, and read Patricia Wrede’s ‘Wrede on Writing’.  It’s good.


*Caveat here to say that Patricia Wrede’s ‘Wrede on Writing’ will be excluded from this rant, since it’s made up of excerpts from her blog, and I’ve always found her particularly helpful.  Also Diana Wynne Jones’ ‘Reflections on Writing’, because I haven’t read it yet, and she’s awesome.

**And you wouldn’t want to be a pantser, now would you?  No, you wouldn’t.  Good writer.  That’s right.

***You naughty writer, you!

****I promise I won’t hold it against you.

Look, Ma! I’m Makin’ A Movie!

Look, Ma!  I’m makin’ a movie!

Well, I’m writing a screenplay, anyway.  Close enough?

For those who don’t know what a screenplay is (one of the guys at my writer’s group asked me this morning); a screenplay is the bones of a movie or tv series, or sometimes even a game.  It’s a script plus a few extra bits, like scene settings or actor instructions, or camera shots/angles.  It’s the beginning of a movie.

I wrote a short story a while ago that I just couldn’t get out of my head.  There were things I knew about the setting and characters that didn’t make it into the short story for the very simple reason that if I’d included them, it wouldn’t have stayed a ‘short’ story.  It was an unusually visual story for me, and it didn’t cease to prod at the corners of my mind when I finished it, unlike every other story/book I’ve written.  I always still love my characters when the story is done, and I’m always fully immersed in the re-writes and editing, but this particular story just seemed to keep growing with scenes and dialog that were increasingly visual.  Then someone from my writer’s group read the story and said: “This should be a movie.”


At first it was just ridiculous thoughts of: “Oooh, this is a great song for the soundtrack!” and “This actor is perfect for George.  Oh, and this one is going to play Ruth.”  Then I started wondering about the form of screenplays: how they’re structured, what they contain, etc.  It didn’t really occur to me that I could write a screenplay, of course; because I’m a writer and don’t you have to be a playwright/screenwriter to do that?  Am I allowed to write a movie?

Well, apparantly I am.  I did my research (ahem.  Well, a full day of furious typing on the google and madly following links, and reading the screenplay for True Grit); found out the correct format (oh boy, are they a pain!); and started writing.

And I can do it.  It’s a different form with different rules, and entirely refreshing.  It’s almost easy, because I know where it’s going and what I have to show to make it work.  It’s just a matter of plugging away until it all done, and then making it as beautiful as I can.  I don’t know that I’ll try and send it out to anyone when it’s done.  Heck, I don’t even really know if I’m doing it properly.  But now that I’ve started, other books have begun with the same siren song . . .

Well, the world really does need a four-hour miniseries of The Count of Monte Cristo, after all.


Adventures In Retail: The Coffee Bandit


“Coffee?  What coffee?” he blustered.  Just as if I hadn’t watched him try the same stunt last week.  Wearing the same jacket.  Same hat.  Same stringy-haired girlfriend.

“The coffee in your jacket, mate,” I said.  At least he’d been a bit more circumspect this time.  Last week it was a huge 1kg International Roast can that he shoved up his jacket.  This time he’d just taken a small glass jar of $15 Moccona coffee.  Quality over quantity, maybe.

“@!!## you!” he said, and started to walk away.

“Mate, we’ve got your face on camera.  You want me to call the police for coffee?”

He tried to keep walking but his nerve was shot.  He dug the coffee out of his jacket and tossed it on the closest register, still legging it for the exit.

“Don’t come back,” I told him, and snagged the coffee.

He turned around for one last salvo.

“You better hope I don’t find you out on the street,” he said.

I raised my brows and said: “Yeah, you keep walking, mate.”


Ya can’t make this stuff up, guys.

Grist for the mill, or merely mundane stupidity?  Well, that’s why we’re writers, after all.  To answer the big questions.


The Pirate Code



Everybody knows what the Pirate Code is.  (And if you don’t, immediately go and watch all four movies in the Pirates of the Carribean franchise.  Seriously.)

Take what you want!  Give nothing back!  Or, depending on which part you’re talking about; Those who fall behind, get left behind.  Or even Parlay?  The part I want to talk about, however, is Take what you want.  Give nothing back.

I’m relatively new to the blogosphere.  I’ve been blogging for about three months now, steadily learning as I go; and I’m just beginning to scratch the surface of it all.  There are so many people who blog, or comment, or reach out on twitter, or . . .  And so on.  It’s just slightly overwhelming.  Now, I’m the kind of person who has to be reminded to say hello to people.  When I see someone I need to talk to, I generally march up to them and say something like: “Oh!  Bags!  Where are they?” or “Where’s my chocolate cake?”  I have to make a distinct effort to engage in small talk.

It should therefore come as no shock to realise that I’m only just beginning to grasp the vast social possibilities of WordPress, Twitter, Tumblr, et al.  Because it’s not just me blogging to whoever will listen.  It’s people out there, all writing about what they love, or what interests them, or what annoys them.  Sometimes they reach out and touch me and I get to see a little bit of them.  Sometimes I stumble onto a subject that interests someone else, and they get to see a bit of me.

It’s a community out there.  We comment back and forth, reblog, and tweet (or is it twit?) to each other.  And I’ve been running on the Pirate Code because it just didn’t occur to me that to get the richest experience out of all this, I was going to have to give something back.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find a man with a goat.  And someone who can go: “OooOOoooh!” while doing spooky fingers.**



*Pic from the Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides.

**Seriously.  Watch the Pirates of the Carribean.

Feeling Refreshed!

So I got a promotion at work.  It means more money, which means the house will get paid off in roughly five years (if I can stick to the plan); but it also means more work.  Lately, it also means going without my lunchbreak (which is usually my official hour of writing time) and getting home so flamin’ tired that I can’t concentrate on my dinner, let alone my WIP.  That, of course, has had a derogatory effect on my writing.

Oh, I’m still writing.  Sometimes I even write a whole paragraph.  (Yeah, impressive, right?)  But the sense of accomplishment and movement that comes from writing roughly a page a day, and the in-depth knowledge of the WIP that comes from writing it and living it every day, is no longer there.  Lately, I feel stale and old and slightly disconnected.  Discontented with the way my WIP is progressing and not as enthusiastic about it as I usually am.

This morning, however, I’m feeling re-energised.  Wanna know why?  Of course you do.  Over the weekend I read a wonderful book entitled ‘Brood of Bones’ by AE Marling.  Not only is it an amazing read in and of itself (fantastic plot, wonderful characters, and evocative prose) but it also has the distinction of being one of the few successfully written books having a female protagonist that is in fact written by a male.  Moreover, it gave me insights into how I want to write a certain book that is further down the chain in a sequence I’m currently working on.

There is nothing that energises me more than reading a well-written book with characters I love.  It’s always been my maxim (yes, I have a maxim.  Actually, I have two; the other being that there is a song for everything), that if you can’t write, read.  Over the weekend, I couldn’t write.  So I read.  And now I can write again.

I feel refreshed.  I feel energised.  I have my cuppa.  Have at thee, book!